The Rum Diary (2011)
Starring Johnny Depp and Aaron Eckhart
A red plane flying careless and free in the bright blue sky. Not a single cloud in he sky. Below, a shimmering clean ocean on a beautiful day. Cut to Johnny Depp’s darkened hotel room. The room is a mess and so is Depp. His blood-shot eyes and dishevelled appearance give us some indication of the horrendous hangover he’s experiencing. This is the opening scene of The Rum Diary and it establishes the identity of this film pretty quickly. This movie shows us two very different sides to Puerto Rico in 1960. One side is beautiful and carefree and rich. The other is dirty and struggling a poor. How these two sides coexist shows us a perspective on Western culture that should make us uncomfortable and question how we perceive ourselves and the world.
Johnny Depp plays Paul Kemp, an alcoholic reporter who takes a job with a Puerto Rican newspaper in an effort to find some direction in his life. What he finds in this island paradise is a local people living in poverty and protesting in the streets while American tourists live the high life, unwilling to leave their resorts for fear of the locals. Kemp comes into contact with Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), a property developer who wants to build more resorts for the wealthy at the expense of the poor.
The Rum Diary is a beautifully shot movie. There’s not a single shot in this movie that didn’t have me drooling with colours that just pop on the screen. This is a movie that I’d happily sit and watch with no dialogue or plot and just sit and watch the pretty pictures. The fact that this movie is also full of great characters being played by actors bringing their A-Game makes it even better. It’s not the perfect movie, but it’s a lot of fun to watch.
“Does the world belong to no one but you?” One of the main themes of The Rum Diary is man’s inhumanity to man in the pursuit of greed. Treating someone as less than human is okay as long as there is money to be made. Even better if we can sweep them away and never see or mention them. There are real problems in 1960’s Puerto Rico but we don’t want to think about them so we’ll report the local bowling scores instead. From a Christian perspective, we know that the world does not belong to us. It belongs to God. And we have to share this planet with everyone. Having more money does not make me more valuable than someone who has less. When Jesus calls us to love our neighbour (Luke 10:27), there’s no conditions. It doesn’t matter if no one else is looking, because God is. And we will be held accountable for how we treat others. The treatment of the third world by the first is a complex issue. But it is unacceptable for a Christian to sit back and simply ignore the problem while exploiting others.
The Rum Diary is not a movie for everyone. The abuse of alcohol and drugs in this movie is off-putting. But if you’re up for a movie that looks stunning and will make you think about how we treat poorer cultures, consider giving The Rum Diary a shot.